L’histoire nous libère des entraves

History frees us from the shackles

Henri-Irénée Marrou

In a place of elite commentary and closed exclusive media with no reader engagement, is there freedom of speech?

Image used at my column based with Iran’s Press TV website

With the exception of blogs like this one and certain columns at alternative media websites, it seems that most of the media commentary given to the public is shoved down people’s throats without any regard for common sense or criticizing the social order. However, they do their best to pretend. It puts me in a very unique situation.

Let me give you an example: “Iran’s hypocrisy in condemning U.S. racism”, by Michael Rubin at CNN. In the post, which was made in December 2014, Rubin seizes on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Twitter comments in support of #BlackLivesMatter as he reacted to support the protests against police racism in the US. Khamenei infuriated arrogant commentators like Rubin in the US, who usually indulge in criticizing other countries, as they were forced to see their own immoral country being criticized by Iran – which they usually criticize. In a strange and convoluted argument reacting to Khamenei’s tweets, Rubin tries to argue that Iran is actually a more racist society than the US. It comes out as desperate gibberish, and it is obvious that the reason for the brevity of Rubin’s post is that he just couldn’t think up enough lies to tell.

Khamenei was justified in making his tweets, and Rubin should be embarrassed at how wrong he is in trying to represent these Iranian social criticisms of US institutional racism as hypocritical. Iranians were wise to react in disgust at the racism in the US. We can easily know the reality that Rubin tried so hard and failed to hide in his post: the US is obviously the more racist country. Consider that Iran is the world’s oldest modern multicultural society. If we trace its roots back to ancient Persia, it was the first world power to ever truly bring different peoples together under one empire in a harmonious fashion. To this day, its different communities live together in harmony, and have never been faced with internecine conflict or the systematic persecution of minorities. By contrast, the United States began as a country that practiced the wholesale enslavement of a race, and the genocide of the native population. Rubin is no critic of the latter, even throwing in some support of the Israeli Zionist settler-state in his post.

Apparently, for Rubin, Iran is a more racist country than the US, because he uses the facile argument that he thinks its criticism of Israeli racism and apartheid might be antisemitism:

Repeated rhetoric about Israel being a cancer—sometimes without any differentiation between Jews and Israel—takes a toll.

When I look at people like Rubin, I see someone wearing a dunce hat. These are the most stupid and evil people in the world, who make up lies for the world’s most cowardly and racist regimes while hypocritically calling those who rightly point out their stupidity and oppression a “racist”. Although I thank Iranian publications for enhancing my free speech, and I give no thanks to CNN for giving a platform for dunces like Rubin, I myself don’t necessarily believe in free speech. Liars like Rubin, for example, deserve to be deprived of their right to free speech. Not because a society with less free speech is a good thing, but because the world has already heard enough from people like him. The one percent at the top of US and European society, and the liars who legitimize them and popularize their message in the media, have already been given a disproportionate platform for too long and it is simply high time for them to shut up.

It is especially rich for a pundit at CNN to talk about how much more free speech there is in the US, compared to Iran. Rubin is himself clearly disengaged from his readers, making posts that have no comment thread on them, like a lot of columns favored by the corporate media and the state. Is this what “free speech” looks like? Does “free speech” describe pundits of the one percent bellowing lies and blasphemies against humanity into a megaphone, while living a life in ignorance of their audience? For this reason, I find it ironic that Rubin uses his post to argue that there is an abundance of free speech in the US and none in Iran.

I find it especially ironic, personally, because most of my own most public writing has been published not by CNN but by an Iranian news website: Press TV. From my perspective, Iran is more actively giving a voice to oppressed and marginal people than the US. CNN (or any of the US media’s) attempts to represent itself as giving a platform for popular expression or advancing the frontiers of free speech is a farce. CNN represents its corporate sponsors, while Press TV represents the ninety-nine percent of humanity. The fact the channel is funded by the Iranian state is only even more reason to see it as representative of the oppressed, because that ties Press TV’s media mission directly to the Islamic Revolution.

The US represents all the world’s tyrants and impersonal, unaccountable corporations. Iran proudly lends a humanitarian and moral lifeline to impoverished peoples in armed struggle in Palestine, Lebanon and other areas of the Islamic world. It is a role that can bring no shame. Iran’s role in the world inspires millions to defend their rights every day, while the US’s role earns more and more opponents and recruits more violent militants against US aggression and global arrogance every day.

It is a fallacy to keep framing everything in terms of the “Western freedoms” versus Islam or versus “authoritarian regimes”. In the case of the US and its media versus Iran and its media, it is best understood as the battle between the oppressor and the oppressed, between the liar and the one who exposes lies.

The liar deserves no freedom of speech and is no friend of the people, while the one who tells the truth deserves great freedom of speech and is a friend of the people. In their own way, every editor agrees with this principle. If “free speech” were indiscriminate, there would be a constant flow of nonsense and lies from every publication everywhere, all the time. There isn’t.

In the particular instances where they are accused of censorship, Iranians have a well-earned right to censor US lies aiming to destabilize their country and their historic revolution, while the US has no right to censor the truth about its barbarity and hypocrisy. Trying to use “free speech” arguments to create an equivalency between the oppressor media trying to disseminate lies against Iran, and the oppressed media trying to record and demonstrate the truth of oppression – whether in Palestine or the whole Middle East region – should be recognized as obscene.

It is simply a basic editorial principle – not an affront to free speech – that liars need to shut up, and that people who actually have a critical point to make in the interests of the world’s downtrodden masses should have their voice amplified by a just and accurate media. Iran performs that service better than any country in the world, and for an example of it, I dare you to use Press TV. The only propaganda that the oppressed need is the truth, and nothing that the oppressed do or say will change the fact that they are right and deserve to prevail.

By Harry J. Bentham

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